How to make walking in Venice is a fantastic experience.
If you want to do a Venice walking tour all by yourself, there are a few things to consider. These have nothing to do with hazards, or being prepared in any particular way. Walking in Venice is easy, safe, and pleasant. You can’t really fail in any significant way. Still, a little bit of foresight can help you avoid the very few possible false steps. And if you’re well organized, you will make a pleasant stroll into an experience of a lifetime:
- If you want, you can choose a main topic or theme for your tour, such as history, art, culture, or architecture (Like I’ve done below), and focus on that. Or don’t… You know what you’re interested in and maybe you just choose your points of interest based on, well, what you like.
- Get a map and draw the route of your tour (or, if you’re connected to the internet, please use one of my maps below. They are linked from the title.). Mark all stop points and note where to buy tickets and other info. Be sure to have the latest correct opening hours as these may vary due to season or holidays. Arriving at the museum with high expectations just to see that it’s closed, is not a good feeling.
- Estimate the time and distance between the sites. Add the time required to visit the site, and adjust accordingly. And remember that much of Venice is very beautiful. Calculate an extra ten minutes at the canal bend just to watch the gondolas passing by.
Why Venice is a perfect city for walking on your own.
It is hard to imagine a city more perfect than Venice for walking. There are three reasons for this:
- The absence of cars. This is of course a huge advantage when walking in Venice. No streets to cross, no rumors from the traffic, and no constant worry about where your kids are and if they dare to venture out among the speeding traffic. It is simply very relaxing, especially if you have children.
- The beauty of the city itself. When walking in Benice between this and that, it’s not just a distance to cover to get to the next destination. Often it is the route itself that imprints the strongest memory… The lights and shadows in the tight calli, the palaces, the canals, and all the rest.
- The short distances. Venice walking is shorter than in most cities. Venice is small, and the various attractions are numerous. In the same, limited area, you can choose a whole lot of different highlights depending on your interests, and often you just have to walk from one place to next door to find something that intrigues you.
My own best 5 Venice walks.
Here are 5 good Venice walks, that I’ve put together. The labels reflect some aspects of the attractions, but it’s very subjective. And obviously, you can toss out and pull in stops as you please. See them as a basis for what you can do by yourself if you don’t want to follow a guided tour. At the bottom of the page, I have listed a few agencies that offer Venice walking tours. Some of which are free.
History and Culture Tour (3-4 hours):
- Start at Piazza San Marco, the main square of Venice, and admire the stunning St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, and the Clock Tower. If you want you can spend the morning visiting one or all of them but for this walk that is not included. Cross the Ponte della Paglia to get a glimpse of the famous Bridge of Sighs. Walk along the Riva degli Schiavoni and enjoy the views of the lagoon and the island of San Giorgio Maggiore. At Giardini “B” take line 4.1 (water bus) around the southern tip, around the city, and back on the northern side all the way to the island of San Michele, the cemetery of Venice. See the tombs of Igor Stravinsky, Esra Pound, and others. Return to Venice with the same line 4.1 and get off at Madonna dell’Orto. Visit the church, then continue to Campo dei Mori and Tintoretto’s Palace. Continue to the Jewish Ghetto and the Museum of Jewish Art and History. End your tour at Ca’ d’Oro, a beautiful Gothic palace on the Grand Canal.
Art and Architecture Tour (4 hours):
- Start at the Accademia Bridge and visit the Gallerie dell’Accademia, where you can see masterpieces by Venetian painters such as Bellini, Titian, and Tintoretto. Calculate at least 60 minutes. Walk to the nearby Peggy Guggenheim Collection, a modern art museum housed in a former palace. Calculate 60 minutes. Continue to the Santa Maria della Salute, a baroque church with a striking dome and a rich collection of paintings. Walk to the Punta della Dogana, a former customs house turned into a contemporary art museum… And that’s another 60 minutes or more. Take a Vaporetto nr. 1 to San Zaccaria, and from there nr. 2 to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and visit the church. You should definitely climb the Bell Tower, it’s a fabulous view. And maybe you should visit also the monastery housing the Giorgio Cini Foundation, and the Borges labyrinth.
- Start at the Rialto Bridge, the oldest and most famous bridge in Venice, and enjoy the views of the Grand Canal. Walk down on the northern side passing the famous Mona and Casso, stop by at Caffè del Doge, and continue to Campo San Polo. This is the largest campo in Venice (still smaller than St Mark’s Square though). Visit the church of San Polo. Continue to Campo dei Frari and Scuola Grande di San Rocco, a confraternity building with impressive frescoes by Tintoretto. Then walk through the narrow calli to Campo Santa Margherita, a lively and charming square with a certain local feel. Sit down at one of the many bars and enjoy a Spritz and a snack. Here you can visit the church Santa Maria dei Carmini and Scuola Grande dei Carmini, with frescoes by Tiepolo. From here, go south to Zattere, turn left, and walk along the waterfront promenade with beautiful views of the Giudecca Canal and the island of Giudecca. Stop at the Gelateria Nico for a delicious ice cream. Walk north on Fondamenta Nani and finish off at the excellent wine bar Enotecha Schiavi. (Or maybe, you want to do these two stops in the reverse order…)
Food and Wine Tour (3 hours):
- Start at the Rialto Market, where you can see the fresh produce and seafood that are the staples of Venetian cuisine. Learn about the history and culture of the market and taste some local specialties, such as Baccalà Mantecato (creamed salted cod) and Sarde in Saor (sardines with onions and vinegar). Walk over the Rialto bridge, turn left, and visit the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. If you book you may even see the view from the Rooftop Terrace. Sneak through the small streets to Corte dell’Orso and the first stop at I Rusteghi. Close by is our second stop: Rosticeria Gislon. Walk to Campo Manin with the bronze statue of the freedom fighter. A few steps from the Campo, you can visit the Contarini del Bovolo Palace, a hidden gem with a spiral staircase and a lovely view of the rooftops. Continue to Campo Santo Stefano and our third stop: Bacaro da Fiore. Satisfied and full continue to Campo San Samuele and visit the Palazzo Grassi, a neoclassical palace that hosts temporary art exhibitions. Then return to Campo Santo Stefano and end the tour at one of the many bars for a Spritz or two while you rest your tired legs.
Hidden Gems Tour (read Churches) (2 hours):
- Start at the Campo San Zaccaria and visit the church of San Zaccaria, where you can see the crypt of the doges and a painting by Bellini. Walk to the Campo Santa Maria Formosa and visit the church of Santa Maria Formosa, where you can see the tomb of the doge Francesco Foscari. Nearby, you can visit Palazzo Grimani. Then continue to Campo San Giovanni e Paolo and visit the church of San Giovanni e Paolo, the largest Gothic church in Venice and the burial place of many doges. Continue to Campo Santa Maria dei Miracoli and visit the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, a jewel of Renaissance architecture with a marble façade and a coffered ceiling. Continue past Campiello Sta Maria Nova, and walk over to the Church of St. Giovanni Crisostomo. See the second Opera house of Venice, Teatro Malibran, and end the walk at the Osteria 6014 with a well-deserved glass of wine with a couple of Cicchetti.
The organized Venice walking tours.
If you, all things considered, still opt for walking in Venice with a guide, then my recommendation would be to use these guys: Venice Free walking tour. These are more or less local professional tour guides. The particular case here though is that they mostly work because they are passionate about Venice and the historical and non-historical facts about her. The guides have a genuine interest in transmitting as many accurate and interesting facts as possible.
The tours are free, but after every walk, the participants are encouraged to value the experience and donate in accordance.